DALLAS — Dallas would issue up to $25.5 million of 10-year certificates of obligation to upgrade the city-owned Cotton Bowl stadium under a plan outlined Monday to the City Council’s budget and finance committee.
The improvements are needed keep the annual football game between the University of Texas and University of Oklahoma at the stadium in Fair Park through 2020, officials said at the council briefing.
Alan Walne, chair of the State Fair of Texas, said without the upgrades the game could go to Cowboys Stadium in Arlington or to on-campus facilities when the current contract expires after the 2015 game.
“Do not think for one minute we don’t have folks who would like to see this game go to other cities,” he said at the briefing. “This is one of the things that makes Dallas, Dallas. It’s a part of the fabric of Dallas.”
The Cotton Bowl is southeast of downtown Dallas, in the 227-acre city-owned Fair Park. It was built in 1930 and officially renamed the Cotton Bowl in 1936. The game, known as the Red River Rivalry, has been played at Fair Park during the annual three-week state fair since 1929.
The city said the game generates $33.8 million in local spending and contributes $500,000 a year for the city’s general fund through sales and hotel taxes.
Mayor Mike Rawlings said he supports the stadium improvement plan. If the city will commit to the upgrades, he said, the schools will extend their contract to play at the Cotton Bowl.
Pete Schenkel, chairman of the fair’s sports committee, said he has proposed a five-year contract extension to officials at UT and OU. Schenkel said he was confident of an agreement if the stadium upgrades are authorized by the city.
UT athletic director DeLoss Dodds said last week that the school would agree to extend the series at the Cotton Bowl for another five years but only if some improvements are made. The effort outlined in briefing materials would add a historically compatible façade at each end of the stadium, modernize the press box and add club seating.
The two schools committed in 2008 to keeping the game in Dallas through 2015 after voters approved $50 million of general obligation bonds in 2006 for upgrades at Fair Park. They include $30 million at the football stadium to add seats, scoreboards and concession areas.
The City Council could decide on the plan April 11.
The schedule calls for the debt to be issued in early June with construction under way by January 2013. The work is scheduled to be completed in September.
City manager Mary Suhm said issuing the debt as certificates of obligation rather than GOs would allow the city to move more rapidly on the Cotton Bowl project.
Dallas has $1.8 billion of outstanding GOs bonds rated AA-plus by Standard & Poor’s and Aa1 by Moody’s Investors Service.